Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You Are Someone Else

Maybe it's the unusually warm weather many parts of the country are having, in this, the summer of our malcontent--maybe we're just a little more brusque with one another and have a little less patience than at other times because, when you get down to it, these are NOT other times.

Social historians writing for contemporary magazines, ranging from Rolling Stone through the Atlantic and The New Yorker, have chronicled the outrage that practically every segment, 'demographic' is the buzzword used in poli-sci circles, we are feeling. We are Cranky with a capital C, if I may offer my own descriptive.

I know people who 'only' get their news of the world from a single platform of Main Stream Media, be it the New York Times, Fox News and/or every flavor in the rainbow from one to the other (and if you think those two are the polar opposites, then good luck telling me where to put these kats and kittens because all I can say is 'crazy, man, crazy').

I like chocolate ice cream (I'm probably not supposed to eat it, but I like it) but I eat other flavors, too. It's about more than freedom of choice of ice cream flavor-it's about NOT missing out and not getting a chance to sample every perspective. That's why I read/watch/listen to people with whom I disagree-to stretch my brain while trying to follow their argument. But lately we've been eating ice cream without spoons.

Everyone of us is in danger of reducing ourselves to rude bumper stickers, be we "Birthers" or Fellow Travelers--the only thing more pointless than putting other people in boxes with simplistic labels is allowing someone to do it to you. If all you think of when I say Whitman, is a box of chocolates, Forrest, you need to get another life, because I mean Walt.

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end. But I do not talk of the beginning or the end. Song of Myself is a brilliant work of ironic observation and examination of the American Spirit because even the title is about everyone other than the author. It is about each of us, you and me, the Americans unborn at the time Whitman wrote it. And perhaps he penned it because he knew someday we'd need it.

We have too many words to tell us how we came to this place in the story of ourselves and too few to tell us how to go forward and go ahead. The pages are blank and so, too, are many of the minds who would lead us, leaving us to our own devices. Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I wear my crown of thorns on my liar's chair, full of broken thoughts. I cannot repair. beneath the stain of time, the feeling disappears. you are someone else; I am still right here. And if we've learned nothing else from our own history, it's that no matter how we fight, and we were reduced to national fratricide a century and a half ago, we are still standing and this, whatever, this moment of self-loathing and self-doubt, this too shall pass.
-bill kenny

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